[Contains conveniently-placed calendars and SPOILERS!!!]
The X-Files creator Chris Carter has a new pilot streaming online at the moment, courtesy of Amazon Studios. Normally I’d be hesitant to come down too harshly on premiere episodes (especially after shooting my mouth off about shows that I later came to love)… but the studio have specifically posted it on their site so that opinionated users can rate and review it, before the big-wigs decide whether to place a series order or not… so, here goes:
Although several sources classify the series as a “post-apocalyptic drama”, it played more like a pre-apocalyptic drama to me… basically, eight strangers get trapped in a hotel parking garage during a blackout, then (after a lot of tedious squabbles) escape to discover that the city is gridlocked, and the stranded citizens are acting a little crabbier/crappier than usual. The synopsis on Wikipedia suggests they’ll be fighting to survive in “a violent, unpredictable new world”, but (perhaps because of budget constraints?), we don’t really get any sense of how widespread the supposed violence really is… in fact, it looks far less violent than the riots and civil unrest we’re used to seeing on the news these days. Frankly, until a spider-walking demon scuttled off the screen in the dying minutes of the ep, I was in serious danger of nodding off, as the tedious, one-dimensional survivors bickered among themselves. Apparently they all share a birthday… but the gaping void where their personalities should be sucked all of the intrigue out of that rather rushed revelation (which was quickly forgotten when two characters abruptly decided to beat each other up, in a rather obvious attempt to distract viewers away from a mystery that Carter didn’t want to delve into just yet). Overall, I’d say it reminded me of second season Walking Dead… and second season Walking Dead was the very opposite of “must-see TV”.
Cast-wise, Carter has rather bravely cast a foreigner as the series lead (or at least our main POV character, in the first ep): Bona fide Parisian Louise Monot plays ‘Gigi Generau’, a semi-successful French actress who happens to be packing a prop pistol in her purse, as well as a frustrated desire to play a no-nonsense tough chick instead of “exotic” eye-candy. So far, so good… but sadly her character is also saddled with an absent husband and child, who she’ll no doubt be whining about and desperately trying to contact for the whole of the first season (or longer). Yawn. Jaina Lee Ortiz plays ‘Marly Gonzalez’, a resolute but compassionate police officer, who’s probably the most likable and decent character of the bunch, even if she is a little boring so far. Sharon Lawrence plays ‘Francis’, a middle-aged diabetic who happens to be super-rich and own a huge mansion… just so the show can do that thing where the survivors retreat to a large, well-stocked oasis and start to relax, before the baddies inevitably intrude on their “paradise” to wreck it up. It’s the classic Dawn of the Dead/Diary of the Dead play! Finally, Arielle Kebbel (my main reason for watching this is in the first place) plays ‘Tammy’, a high-class prostitute who seems to exist solely as a plot-puppet. One minute she’s shucking her clothes to take an impulsive skinny dip and show off her oh-so-significant tattoo, and the next she’s babbling about The Book of Revelation, to lay down some heavy foreshadowing! Meh.
In the interests of balance, it’s worth noting that my negativity puts me firmly in the minority, since professional critics and Amazon users alike are giving the show a hearty thumbs-up… and The Walking Dead has remained a huge hit, long after I got bored and stopped watching it, so what do I know?
Stray observation: I think Carter gets a little carried away with the swearing here. Just because you can drop an F-bomb (or an N-bomb) in every other line of dialogue, doesn’t necessarily mean that you should… especially when everything else in the episode is so tame and PG-13!